Ah, summer. For many of us, it’s our favorite season, and one that in the dead of winter feels like it will never arrive. But what was summer like in the past? If you could take a time machine and travel back in time 100 or 120 years, what would you see?
Upon arriving in the past, you would notice that many of the activities we enjoy today such as fairs, picnics, outdoor sports, ice cream and amusement parks also are enjoyed.
Some things would be different, too. The air would smell strongly of horse manure. The arrival of the automobile helped alleviate the problem, but there were still many horse-driven vehicles. The smell is one of the reasons why the wealthy leave the city to travel to their summer homes.
Some other differences include:
There were no refrigerators. People had ice boxes to keep foods cool. The ice man delivered ice to homes and businesses via cart.
The ice was nothing like the shredded pieces you can buy today in grocery stores. It was an ice block, measuring approximately 24 inches by 18 inches and was removed from the cart using a large hook.
Ice was harvested by ice houses during the winter months, stored in a large building and transported to populated areas via boat or railroad. It was sold by the pound.
In rural areas, properties may also have contained an underground room that stayed cool enough year round to preserve food and dairy.
During the first half of the 20th century, air conditioning was primarily reserved for public buildings. Homes, especially the upper floors, could be extremely hot during summer. To solve this problem, many properties had sleeping porches.
The porches were screened in and were roomy enough to accommodate full sized beds. These were often in the back of the house because they were intended to be seen only by the home’s residents.
In addition to being more comfortable for sleeping, the porches were thought to be more hygienic, providing fresh air to tuberculosis patients and others who were ill.
Apartment dwellers obviously didn’t have porches, but the fire escape made a good substitute on summer nights.
If you were affluent enough, you could have beat the heat by taking a vacation or going to the lake or seashore to go swimming.
During the summer, fashions changed as well. It was common for both men and women to wear white during the warmer months as it was cooler.
In the Edwardian era, women began to wear short sleeves and necklines bared their neck and upper torso. These fashions were among the first to liberate women from constricting clothing.
What are your plans this summer? Leave a comment below.
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